Craftbuilt Industries’ award-winning project is magical curved stairs

Simon embraces his passion for curves.
Craftbuilt’s Simon Raikes with the new hospital’s oak tree staircase.

The ink barely had time to dry on Craftbuilt’s membership with New Zealand Master Joiners before the Levin-based company went straight to the top of the class at this year’s Master Joiners Awards winning the overall Supreme Award along with the Best Staircase Award.

Craftbuilt had only been with Master Joiners for three months before the annual awards event held this year at the Tākina events centre in Wellington. Their depth of expertise and craft with wood is considerable.

It shone through in their astonishing award winning project: a 7.3m tall feature oak tree staircase with 76 shaped branches and 25 steps curving around its trunk, rising all the way from the entrance foyer to Level 2 at Wellington’s new children’s hospital.

“Everything on this project was curved from the tree trunk to the branches and handrails. At the base of it there’s even a tricycle nook with a double curved archway; it curves in two dimensions and was particularly tricky!”

The new Te Wao Nui Child Health Service is a world-class and purpose-built children’s hospital, made possible thanks to the generosity of benefactors Sir Mark Dunajtschik and Dorothy Spotswood.

Built with the well-being of tamariki, rangatahi and whānau at its heart, Te Wao Nui opened in September 2022. Studio Design + Architecture, the project architects and interior designers, won the Rider Levett Bucknall Supreme award at this year’s Property Industry Awards and were praised for their care taken in designing Te Wao Nui.

Craftbuilt was originally approached by Studio Design + Architecture some three years ago to help fulfil their plans for the new hospital’s oak tree staircase.

“This has been a really enjoyable project for us, the architects [Studio Design + Architecture] were so down to earth and great to work with,” says Simon Raikes, owner of Craftbuilt.

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a love and passion for curved staircases or anything made with curves, such as handrails or pieces of furniture. It is another dimension of joinery that most guys run a mile from but it’s something I embrace.”

“Everything on this project was curved from the tree trunk to the branches and handrails. At the base of it there’s even a tricycle nook with a double curved archway; it curves in two dimensions and was particularly tricky!”

Simon’s lifelong flair for joinery started at Horowhenua College many years ago, where he consistently won the top woodwork prize every year through to sixth form. He first started working at Craftbuilt as an after school job and then worked there full-time for 16 years.

“Not all at once as I also worked for a family venture for a time too. Then my old boss offered the business to me and there happened to be another furniture-making business available too so I picked that up as well and merged it with Craftbuilt. It has been an amazing adventure.”

Simon personally poured hour upon hour into planning, manufacturing and installing the oak tree staircase. It involved many long days driving from Craftbuilt’s Levin workshop to Wellington and dealing with Covid-related disruptions. The engineered steel structure for the staircase was lifted into place in mid-June 2021 with the bulk of the staircase completed by March 2022.

Smart decisions helped the project to run smoothly. For example, rather than using heavy 25mm plywood sheets, Craftbuilt used 25mm oak ply laminated on duralite poly panel. “It is much lighter weight while still being quite tough and the American Oak veneer looks stunning.”

Simon personally donated to the project to cover costs of screen printed vinyl sheets used to create the impression of green foliage at the tree’s top. Technical hitches with the sheets being accidentally printed flipside added to the challenges of installation but the final effect is magical.

At Craftbuilt, Simon is the driving force behind the company’s extensive range of high-quality interior fitments, such as fire surrounds, round windows, archways and bespoke furniture.

The Craftbuilt team take pride in working with sustainably sourced timber (FSC or PEFC certified), designing and crafting clever solutions no matter the brief. Their expertise spans residential and commercial projects throughout New Zealand, often in partnership with interior designers.

Craftbuilt makes their own range of Scandi furniture and is also an exclusive provider of Portuguese Wewood, a timeless heritage furniture brand.

Currently on the books for Craftbuilt are a number of exciting bespoke projects including two more large staircases, one for a three-storey architectural home in Wellington. The other is a double curved staircase to serve as the centerpiece of a grand home in Auckland.

© Waterford Press Ltd 2023 – Independent Print Media New Zealand

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